For a couple of games, the Cleveland Browns were on track with their quarterback plan. Their 2012 first-round pick, Brandon Weeden, suffered a sprained thumb in the team's 14-6 Week 2 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and Brian Hoyer came off the bench to help the Browns win their next two games. Thus, a Browns team written off for the 2013 season by many after the Sept. 18 trade of running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts was playing the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night for a chance to lead the AFC North with a 3-2 record.
The Browns got that win, but it came with a heavy price. Hoyer was tackled near the right sideline in the first quarter by linebacker Kiko Alonso and left the game with a knee injury. On Friday morning, Cleveland head coach Rob Chudzinski confirmed what many feared -- Hoyer suffered a torn ACL in his right knee and will be out for the season.
Now the Browns' fate is back in the hands of Weeden, who completed 13 passes in 24 attempts for 197 yards and a touchdown in the 37-24 win Thursday night. Weeden looked lost at times -- he hadn't taken any reps in two weeks while recovering from his own injury -- but he did make some good downfield throws in the second half.
Hoyer signed a two-year, $1.965 million contract with the Browns in May. He was a longtime favorite of current general manager and former NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi. During Lombardi's time in the media, he called the selection of Weeden, and Weeden himself, a "panicked disaster." However, when he got a better look at the second-year quarterback, Lombardi changed his tune to a degree.
"I think [Weeden] clearly has proven in the offseason that he's gotten better at everything they've asked him to do," Lombardi said in late July. "So, every day is about getting better, and I think that's what a lot of players are doing.''
Unless the Browns want to start second-stringer Jason Campbell or kick the tires on new free agent Josh Freeman, Weeden and Lombardi will have to maintain a working relationship, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
“We’ve just got to push through and persevere through adversity," receiver Josh Gordon said after Thursday's win. "We’ve been the team that does that for the longest — since last year. Coming from behind and people doubting us. Coach fired us up, and everybody was ready.” FARRAR: Browns take lead in AFC North, win battle of quarterback attrition over Bills